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Thursday, December 01, 2005

The White Goat & The Importance of Proofreading Your Work

I find it interesting how an experience that happened 26 years ago at the tender age of seven can still affect me to this day. It is a bittersweet memory from 3rd grade that both spurs me to greater effort and recalls feelings of complete humiliation.

We can all recall pivotal points in our lives. Hindsight is 20/20, after all. These pivotal points may be experiences or revelations that fine-tune our focus, change our goals, or alter our perceptions.

The earliest pivotal point that I can remember in my life just so happens to involve a white goat, an aggravated teacher, and a classroom of laughing students. Oh, and let's not forget the humiliation, because that was the true catalyst behind my mantra today - proofread, proofread, proofread.

Huh? What does all this have to do with proofreading?

My third grade teacher gave the class a simple assignment. We were to write a short story, and she would pick a few to read to the entire class.

Everyone was excited! Backs straightened with confidence all around me. Each student was sure his or her story would be the one chosen, including myself. What an honor it would be!

Little did I know that my story would be singled out as an example of poor writing. The only consolation afterwards was that the teacher wouldn't tell the class which student wrote each story she read.

With trembling fingers and visions of my classmates patting me on the back for my creative talent, I handed in my story. Mine was sure to be chosen! After all, it was full of drama, action, and terror. Who wouldn't love my story about an eerie white ghost chasing a poor, frightened family through their big, creepy house?

Wait a minute. The story was about a ghost, right?

Unfortunately, I had written the word "goat" instead of "ghost" all through my story.

Can you imagine my pride when the teacher began reading my story to the class? Now imagine my shock and crushing shame when I realized my mistake. Of course, I felt even worse when the teacher glanced up at me, eyebrows knitted in disapproval, each time she came to the word "goat" in the story.

I can still remember the boy sitting next to me snickering and saying, "Goat? Who'd be afraid of a stupid goat? That's so dumb."

I learned a valuable lesson that day, though I didn't realize it at the time. No matter what you write - a note, a sales letter, a novel, or anything in between - proofread, proofread, proofread!

Proofreading your own work will help you avoid the great "white goat" fiasco, but smaller mistakes are almost sure to slip by. After proofing several times, pass your work along to a trusted friend or associate. The extra set of eyes may pick up on anything you missed.

In my case, the humiliation I experienced 26 years ago proved to be a powerful learning experience. However, I wouldn't wish it for someone else.

So, take to heart the lesson I learned. Always remember the white goat and the importance of proofreading your work.

Copyright 2005 - Karen K. Campbell - All Rights Reserved

About the Author: Karen Campbell is a Copywriter and National Trainer for DirectMatches Business Network with over 11 years experience in marketing, sales and coaching. Visit DirectMatches at She also administers a fiction archive at and the Fictional Perspectives Writer's Resources Blog at

7 comment(s):

Good advice told in a memorable way. The image of the white goat will remain.

By Blogger Patry Francis, at 1:45 AM  

A lesson I am still trying to learn. Thanks, I will bear in mind "White Goats" for ever.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:51 PM  

Thank you both. I'm glad you enjoyed the article! I'll visit you soon when I return home.


By Blogger klynn, at 11:30 AM  

Your article serves as a good example of why we should take the time to look at what we've written word for word before we submit for publication or posting. Sometimes, though, as I've experienced in submitting articles for publication, copy editors will look at a word that's correct, and in misconstruing its meaning, will change the word to what they think it should be, thus sometimes unintentionally making you as the writer look like an idiot. For example, in a feature article I wrote recently for The Republican Journal on my travel out to California by car to attend my daughter's high school graduation, I referred to Cadillac Ranch as "rust henge." When it was printed, I noticed "henge" had been changed to "hedge." And a reference to "Elko, NV" was changed to "Echo, Nevada." Poor guy who did the editing must've thought "elko" was the worst spelling of "echo" he ever came across. But such as it is with the written word. Mistakes will be made, intentionally or not. As long as we take the time to do a careful check of what we've written, we should at least be able to catch the big ones.
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